Why did you decide to study abroad with Carpe Diem?
Melinda: After completing two years at a university I still had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I felt stuck and I knew I needed a change. My mom suggested I look up gap year programs online because she didn’t want me staying home and just working. I did some research online and immediately fell in love with Carpe. I loved the program descriptions and what they were all about! After talking to one of the staff members on the phone for over an hour I knew this was exactly what I wanted to do and immediately started the application process.
How has the experience impacted your future?
Melinda: I feel as though this experience has impacted my future in so many ways; both academically and personally. Before coming on this trip I had no idea what I wanted to do, and now I know. While working with children in Central America I knew that was what I wanted to do, but I didn’t want to be a teacher. I realized that becoming a guidance counselor would be perfect for me; I will be able to help children and also take the time to introduce gap years to the east coast. This program has also impacted me on a personal level.
Growing up in a bubble in a privileged town in Connecticut I didn’t realize how lucky I was. I have an amazing family and live in a beautiful house with running hot water and electricity, I have the opportunity to get an education, I have the freedom to speak my mind, and not to mention all the materialistic things. You don’t realize how much you have until you’re on the outside looking in on that bubble you live in. I came home appreciating my family, education, and freedoms so much more. At first I experience culture shock and couldn’t believe everything we have here, but I learned to be thankful for everything I have.
What is the one piece of advice you'd give future Carpe Diem - Central America students?
Melinda: There are so many things that I could say to future Carpe Diem students; don’t drink the tap water, get good sneakers, and make sure you know how to correctly pack your backpack. But, there is one thing that is so important and it is to keep an open mind. During your trip there are so many things you are going to have to eat, and situations that will push your comfort zones. Keeping an open mind will help you get through every situation where you are way outside that comfort zone. In Central America things don’t always go as planned or on time as we are used to here in the states, you just need to go with the flow and not get frustrated. And remember your group members and group leaders are always there for you to help you out!
Describe your program socially and academically.
Melinda: I loved the program both socially and academically. My favorite aspect socially would be the small groups that you are in. The maximum students allowed in one Carpe group is 12 students and it is just perfect. It allows for you to really bond and get to know each and every group member. We got to know each other so well and I now consider them family. Our group leaders were also amazing. Throughout the trip we had one on one meetings with both leaders and it was a time that I really looked forward to. I loved our group meetings; weekly check ins, group hugs, activities, and especially our group dinners. We did everything together!
Earning 15 college credits has never been so easy. While abroad they ask you to keep a daily journal which I loved doing. Depending on the class you would have to interview locals, do a short presentation, visit church services, or practice art; but, the rest of the work was done when you got back into the states. You are required to write a paper for each course which ranges from 5-12 pages depending on the course.
In Central America we were required to take four weeks of language school. We each had one on one instruction for four to five hours a day. We would sit in the classroom, take walks around the town, visit the local bakeries, and interact with locals. You also lived with local families while taking the Spanish classes, so you got to practice every day with the families! Learning Spanish was fun!!